The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 44 – Danganronpa


One of the most frustrating things about being an anime fan in Britain, apart from the lack of anime on TV and having to wait for a long time for DVDs of certain series to be released, is not having access to brand new series when they’re first aired.

This normally takes the form of anime series that are currently being streamed in the USA, but not in UK. For some reason American streaming services only seem to show some series they have rather than all of them. This seems totally daft because they’re losing customers. Not only that, but because you cannot it see it by the proper streaming method, the only way that people in Britain can watch it at the same time as the Americans is by do things which have questionable legality. For example, having to wait until someone Stateside puts the episode on YouTube and watch it before it gets taken down due to copyright infringement.

One of the worst companies concerning this is Funimation, who stream some anime that this column has covered before (e.g. No. 26, Hetalia: Axis Powers). On the plus side they often put the episodes on YouTube eventually, but not for a while. One series they streamed last year was Danganronpa, which proved to be very popular and the fact that you couldn’t see it over here was even more frustrating.

This 13-part series was broadcast between July and September 2013 and is mostly seen as a murder mystery series, although you could argue it is a “death game” too (like No. 34, Sword Art Online). However, this series is now available in Britain in one way. This series is an adaptation of a 2010 video game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, which was released in Britain earlier this month. So now you can experience this series in some format.

The series is set in elite high school called Hope’s Peak Academy, where every student is the “Ultimate” in their field. For example students include the ultimate swimmer, the ultimate gambler, the ultimate computer programmer and so on. The central character in the anime, and the one you play in the game, is Makoto Naegi. He is actually pretty average, but because he won his place at the school as part of a random lottery, he is designated as the ultimate lucky student.

When Makoto enters the school though he finds himself being made unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds himself inside the school where certain odd things are abound: all the windows are covered by big metal sheets, the main entrance is a vault door that no-one can break down, and seemingly every room has video cameras monitoring them. But perhaps oddest of all is that the headmaster of the school is a remote-controlled black-and-white bear (and not a teddy bear) called Monokuma.

Monokuma tells Makoto and the other 14 students that they are staying at Hope’s Peak forever. But then Monokuma tells them that there is one way to graduate: a student must kill one of the other students and get away without being caught. Once this occurs, a brief investigation takes place and then students are made to undergo a trail. Makoto has to figure out who the killer is, because if the wrong person is found guilty then everyone else gets punished. The punishment is execution.

The most fun element of this series is the characters. While Makoto is average, everyone else seems to display some sort of exaggeration due to their ultimate nature. For example one of the characters, the ultimate clairvoyant Yasuhiro Hagakure is only about 30% accurate and a total idiot. Another, the ultimate affluent progeny Byakuya Togami, is the snobbish heir to massive fortunes and power who looks down upon everyone.

The game is fun to play. It would be described as a visual novel and several anime are based on these sorts of video games (e.g. No. 29, Clannad). This is one of best available. Certain sections might seem a bit long, but on the whole it is fun to play. The mystery surrounding how the characters find themselves in the situation they are in is good, and there are plenty of twists and turns to surprise you.

Given that there are other games in this series, the possibility of this series running longer and being streamed is a good one. So in the event more anime adaptations are made I would like to do however is to address to Funimation: please stop blocking us Brits from your streaming. If you are not going to stream them for us, at least offer some British streaming services to pick up the shows so was can enjoy them.

The original video game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, is available on the PS Vita. In the long term, Funimation series tend to normally be released by Manga Entertainment on Region 2 DVD, so it may become available eventually.